Chase the Ace reached a new level of excitement – against all the odds – as the latest version of the popular lottery wrapped up in Hay River on Dec. 7.
The South Slave Arctic Winter Games (AWG) Host Society decided to conclude the game with 11 cards remaining, meaning 11 names were chosen by ticket sales for the right to draw for the ace of spades and thereby win the jackpot.
Amazingly, 10 people took turns drawing for the elusive ace of spades, but it remained undiscovered.
That meant that the last person in line – Danielle Antoine – only had to reach into a box with one card remaining, and draw the ace of spades to claim the $98,906.50 jackpot.
As the previous contestants took their turns, there were gasps of amazement from the crowd gathered at the Royal Canadian Legion as one after another failed to find the ace of spades.
When the second-last person failed to draw the ace, the loudest shout of joy came from Antoine herself as she realized she had won.
Just after drawing the ace to make things official, an elated Antoine said she didn’t think she would get a chance to draw as the last person in line.
“I just prayed,” she said. “I just prayed.”
She was not the only person to be amazed at the way things turned out.
“I couldn’t have wrote that,” said Keith Dohey, the fundraising chair for the South Slave AWG Host Society and the emcee of the draws. “All the way to 11. What are the chances? That’s incredible.”
Now that she has won the jackpot, Antoine plans to pay off bills.
“And then a good Christmas for the family,” she added.
Antoine is the activity co-ordinator for long-term care residents at Woodland Manor.
She was not the only winner as the Chase the Ace concluded.
Under the special rules for the Dec. 7 event, Kim Brockway, the first person to draw, won a weekly prize of $18,875.
Plus, each of the 11 people who won the right to draw was awarded $500.
Since the jackpot was guaranteed to be won, the ticket sales on Dec. 7 reached an impressive $94,375.
“I’m really happy with the sales we had tonight,” said Dohey. “It was huge.”
Tickets were sold as usual at the Dog House Pub and the Legion, and a third location was added at The Back Eddy.
Dohey said there are two main reasons that the AWG Host Society decided to end the lottery.
“The main reason is we did it as a fundraiser for the Arctic Winter Games,” he explained. “The games are over and, as of a couple of weeks ago, our debts, our overages, are covered.”
Dohey added that, by ending the Chase the Ace, some other organization can get a chance to start another one.
“Let somebody else, let another group start another one maybe in the new year if there’s interest,” he said. “I’m sure there probably would be.”
Dohey explained that the latest Chase the Ace was the second for volunteers with the AWG.
“We’ve been doing this for over 15 months now every Friday,” he said. “So it’s a strain on volunteers and it’s not that there’s an issue with that, but without the necessity of having to raise the money I think it’s time to call an end to it.”
Dohey noted there was really no negative reaction to the decision to end the Chase the Ace early.
“I don’t think anyone is overly disappointed with it,” he said. “I haven’t had really any negative comments about shutting it down early. I think people understand it.”
Plus, Dohey predicted there would have been a social impact of people possibly spending a lot of money on Chase the Ace before the Christmas holidays.
“We didn’t want to have that issue come up,” he said.
Glenn Smith, the assistant senior administrative officer with the Town of Hay River, said there is no timeline for when a new licence might be awarded for another Chase the Ace, and he is not sure if there are any applications on file.
“I would be certain that there are groups that are interested in looking at it,” he said.
Smith said it is permissible under the town’s bylaws to end a Chase the Ace early, noting he has experience running such a lottery as the former head of fundraising for the Hay River Curling Club, which ran a very successful Chase the Ace in 2016.